What if your partner died and no-one told you? If you found out you’d lost the love of your life by stumbling across their obituary?
That was the reality for one young man whose boyfriend died before either of them had the chance to come out.
“I’m currently going through what is hopefully the most traumatic event of my entire life,” a heartbroken Reddit user (let’s call him John) wrote in an anonymous post on the site’s LGBT forum.
“I’m not out, so I have literally nobody to talk to about this. I thought telling the story to you guys might be cathartic in a way.”
What follows is the story of two men falling in love before being separated, at first by their bigoted families and then, finally, by terminal illness.
John first met Jack two years ago when the pair shared a room at an American university.
“I was just figuring out who I was, and coming to terms with the fact that I’m bi, when I met my roommate for the year, Jack,” he writes.
“We bonded really quickly and I soon learned that he was gay, and closeted to everybody save me. I came out to Jack sometime during the following few weeks, and while we did our best to not cross that line, we soon fell for each other. Hard.”
He describes the first few months of their romance as one of the most important periods of his life, saying he was happy in away he “never even considered possible”.
“Jack and I shared things with each other that we hadn’t even dared to speak aloud before and sex was fueled more by a desire to feel close to one another than mere carnal desire,” he wrote.
“Maybe we were in love, or maybe we weren’t; but it sure felt like it, and that’s a lot of what matters.”
A Reddit user writes about the pain of losing his boyfriend.
But things weren't simple even then, both men worried about the reactions from their religious families.
While John believed his parents would eventually accept him, Jack's were staunchly anti-homosexuality, so the couple agreed to keep their fledging romance a secret.
Things were further complicated by Jack's chronic illness, he had cystic fibrosis.
Despite being relatively healthy, was in and out of hospital frequently and was self-concious about his body.
"The first time we made love he was mortified to take off his shirt," John recalls. "But, after much love and encouragement he finally built up the courage, and I saw why. His body was beautiful, and he was fit, but he had a massive surgery scar running width wise, just under his pecs, and a port in his chest near his shoulder.
"All I wanted to do was kiss every thing he was self conscious about and show him that I loved it all just because it was his. Some nights were bad. He would lie in bed sobbing, with my arms wrapped around him, terrified of his painful future. I wanted more than anything in the world to make him better."
When Jack's mum discovered they were dating, she refused to believe her son could be gay, blaming his illness, his liberal education and, of course, his boyfriend.
She pulled him out of university to spend the year at home and "get his life back on track".
Meanwhile same-sex couples are still fighting for recognition in Australia (post continues after video):
John and Jack decided it would be easier to cut off contact.
"We held on for awhile, being super sneaky about our communications, but we eventually said our goodbyes and agreed that I would contact him at the end of the school year," John wrote.
"We had every intention of picking up right where we left off."
When the time came he sent an email, but received no response.
He texted, then called. No response.
Worrying Jack's mother had shipped him off to a so-called "conversion camp" to straighten him out, John decided to find his home address.
He googled his name and his city.
"That's when I saw it; it was his obituary," John wrote. "He died in February due to complications of his illness. At first I swore that it had to be somebody else, but then I saw the photo. That's him. That's my Jack."
He had died in a hospital less than 10kms from John's apartment and he'd never even known he was there.
He finishes the post:
"I've done nothing by lie in bed, silently mourning the loss of the only person I've ever loved. I have nobody to talk to about it because I'm out to literally nobody. It's like he never existed. It's like that whole year never happened. He was here, and now he's gone and my life is supposed to somehow just go right back to the way it was before. I can do it. I feel like a ghost, living in a different world than everybody else. I'm falling apart and all I want to do is talk to him. I lie awake and wonder if he was thinking of me; if he was wondering where I was; if he was scared. What little sleep I do get is dominated by chaotic dreams in which I feel him, but never see his face, and that doesn't even make any damn sense. I'll feel his breath in my ear, or his light touch on my cheek before being ripped from my sleep, drenched in sweat and with tears running down my face."
John goes on to add he is planning to write a letter to his "sweet boy", even though he'll never read it.
"I will never be the same after this. Loving Jack, and being loved by him, has changed me, irreversibly," he finished.